Wisdom Directs The Soul

Image by Kuʻulei Kanahele via Papaku Makawalu Smugmug


Wisdom wears an indigo jacket.  She takes long

walks in the purple hills at twilight, pausing to

meditate at an old temple near the crossroads. She

was sick as a young child so she learned to be

alone with herself at an early age.

Wisdom has a quiet mind.  She likes to think

about the edges where things spill into each other

and become their opposites.  She knows how to look

at things inside and out.  Sometimes her eyes go out

to the thing she is looking at, and sometimes, the

things she is looking at enters through her eyes.

Questions of time, depth, and balance interest her.

She is not looking for answers.  (Unknown)


I like to formulate puzzles as a way to titillate the thinking process so that beyond this day a look at some of the things encountered may bring realization! Moving forward with wisdom and satisfaction of realizing the fullness of an existence.  It does not happen in leaps and bounds but more practical life experiences much like the unfurling petals of the hibiscus, which after its fullness and beauty, dies.  What is the wisdom gained?  Enjoy the moment of its fullness.  There is the obvious assurance that another will bloom again and will go through the same process.  However, the gaining of wisdom happens when there is a simultaneous realization that the fullness of the bloom parallels all of the full blooms in your life.  Graduation can be counted as a full bloom stage.  Birthing a child is another full bloom.  For a female having a menstrual period is a full bloom. All these full blooms will fade and die when you are thrown into the mundane world of the working class.  From then forward it is a challenge. This is one of the puzzles, I offer the challenge to continue to look until you instinctively recognize the fullness of beauty and bloom of everything around you. Then you will say, Ahh!


During adolescence, I collected poetry and prose because it was soothing and allowed a feeling of good inside.  This provided a private world for my thoughts.  My challenge was to memorize the poems of life.  This memorization happened while engaged in menial, boring, mundane, but necessary tasks such as washing dishes, hanging clothes, ironing, etc. … “The Ancient Mariner”, “Man with the Hoe”, “If”, “Annabelle Lee”, I was fourteen.


You pass this way but once

Any good you can do for your fellow man

Do it now, for you shall not pass this way again.

This was found on the kitchen wall of my Auntie’s house at the ranch behind the door to the bathroom. Simplicity yet poignant and doable. Is this a full bloom? Poetry that emphasizes life’s journey becomes the mechanism to understand and appreciate other world views, of acquiring knowledge of life styles, and eventually wisdom.


Eventually the life style focused on my passion that is Hawaiʻi.  The first concentrated effort to understand a substantial Hawaiian literary work was to delve into the Kumulipo. I was forty years old. The Kumulipo is not like any other poetry composed. It is a serious chant that delves into life so earnestly and fully that it allows a window into the thinking process, the levels of knowing, and that source of urge for survival which our ancestors possessed.   The Kumulipo is in fact the worth of lifetimes of observation, generations of accumulated knowledge for growth and knowing life cycles. This is truly how one earns insight of the fullness of the bloom or see the sunset and say, “Ah!”  Because both phenomena, after all, are related.


At the time when the earth became hot

At the time when the heavens turned about

At the time when the sun was darkened

To cause the moon to shine

The time of the rise of the Pleiades

That slime, this was the source of the earth

The source of the night that made night

The intense darkness, the deep darkness

Darkness of the sun, darkness of the night

Nothing but night

The night gave birth

Born was Kumulipo in the night, a male

Born was Pōʻele in the night, a female

Born was man for the narrow stream,

The woman for the broad stream

Born was the ʻEkaha moss living in the sea

Guarded by the ʻEkahakaha fern living on land

Darkness slips into light

Earth and water are the food of the plant

The got enters, man cannot enter.


This is the challenging puzzle, here are the words!  What are the thoughts, insights, the actions and experiences which created these words?  Realization sometimes is slow but rewarding.  To rediscover, internalize, and digest the ancestral truths possessed eons before is to untangle the enigmatic value of the ages.  They have left clues. Find the clues, practice them, then teach them.  Don’t look for an answer to gain life experiences, do the work!


Gaining and maintaining wisdom has a lot to do with DNA. Know who you are, where you come from, and trust the voice of your subconscious. Wisdom deals with the issues of life and its special value for living, it is practical and can be found right behind you with the words of your ancestors.  Mau Piailag, the man from Satawal, taught our Hawaiian men to again traverse the Pacific Ocean on their waʻa or canoes.  He said, “Because I have faith in the words of my ancestors I can travel the ocean.”


Education is important for living in this world and making a darn good salary.  But it is as important to know who you are and become passionate about it.  Wisdom is practical and not just knowing fundamental truths if these are unconnected with the guidance of life or with a perspective on its meaning.  If the deep truths that physicists describe about the origin and functioning of the universe have little practical import and do not change our picture of the meaning of the universe and our place with in it, then knowing it would not count for wisdom.  (However, a view that traced the origin and continuance of the universe to a divine being’s plans could count as knowledge and wisdom because it is yielded conclusions about the purpose and most appropriate mode of human life.)


Education is gaining knowledge and we can regurgitate knowledge without having practical use of it ourselves.  I have knowledge of how one can surf by standing on shore and watching the angle of the wave and trying to understand its velocity however it would be foolish to want to be a surf coach.  How can one know to swim without going into the water?  How can a psychologist give council to married couples when his/her marriage experiences have been bad ones?  Socrates said, “One can have knowledge and understanding but to gain wisdom one must use the knowledge and live it.”


How can I understand the poetry of the Kumulipo if I have not given birth?  Is this not the slime of the earth?  Or if I have not seen the viscous eruptive phases of Pele and plant life erupting out of it soon after, is this not the slime of the earth?  Or if I have not been to Waipiʻo to plant a taro in the mud, produced and sent down by the constant flow of water, is this not the slime and source of birth for the earth?


The controversial story of Pele and Hiʻiaka as gods also have a practical side of understanding your family relationships.  It talks about a life’s journey without telling you that you are actually on one now.  It also teaches the lesson that specificity does not happen in a box because all aspects of life are interrelated.  One cannot be a lāʻau lapaʻau or medical practitioner without knowing how to take life.  One cannot become a kumu hula without knowing the symbols of the rise and set of the sun or the characteristics of the vegetation you use for dancing.  These are all interrelated.  This kind of knowing is family, practical, everyday education.


Knowing the words of your ancestors allows you to know yourself and deal with the simple, practical things of life.  Wisdom is food because it provides full satisfaction that you gained this knowledge and understanding of life all by yourself, it is your soul because it is an extension of your family.  And so in a way, wisdom has always been there waiting for you to fit into it when you mature and blossom.  Wisdom is soul’s food.


How fortunate we are

When in life’s looking glass

Our souls we see

Reflection of the past,

Previewing eternity.

By Parley Kanaka’ole

This is according to Pua!

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